13. Venice, Italy
(Actual Trip Date: September 20, 2010)
Walking through Venice is a new experience. But then again, Venice pretty much floats on water and is connected by mainly all canals. There are no roads, or when I went, I didn’t see any. It is the City of Water, the City of Masks, the City of Bridges, the City of Canals, and the Floating City.
The first thing I saw coming out of the train station was the canal and an impressive bridge. They’re everywhere! Giant signs pointing to where you need to go or want to go are pasted to the building walls, some obscure and some lucid. It was odd walking around without a map and merely following signs, turning left and right down bizarre alleyways while crossing several bridges. I felt like a nomad hunting out an animal’s scent, twisting and turning wherever the wind takes us (or in this case, the opaque signs pointing to tourist attractions).
We crossed over twenty bridges, and I lost track of where I really was. I couldn’t tell any bridge apart from each other anymore. Canals upon canals we crossed, and I blinked, turned, stared at the beauty of the water, and went on. To me, it was like walking in a never-ending exciting maze. But then again, I don’t have a good sense of direction anyways. I’m map-challenged.
Venice was the first place I started dishing out my money for souvenir shopping. So there amidst the Rialto was the beginning of the process of Italy robbing my money and Euros in my wallet rapidly disappearing.
The Rialto is a long street of vendors with lights strung, beaming on a string and colors illuminating every corner. Booths kindled up in the grandeur of hanging masks morphed and carved into a range of expressions. Special Venetian glass bowls, plates, and jewelry stood at odd angles, displaying its multi-variegated colors to eager customers’ eyes. It was the most colorful market I have ever stood in yet.
Aimlessly wandering between shelves and crowded groups of tourists touching and admiring glasswork, my eyes ambled from side to side, seeking out the perfect mask I wanted. Looking more and more at all the exquisite Venetian glasses, I realized how much my mother would love one if I brought it back. The task now? Transporting this glass safely in my haphazard, unstable backpack across Italy, back to Maastricht, and then back over the Atlantic Ocean. Looking at the cost and examining the ways the light hugged the reflections, I made up my mind to purchase one.
But masks? I couldn’t help but debate back and forth as I tried on one by one of every different size, color, pattern, and style. But once again, the theme of beauty in the strangest places caught me again. When reaching the end of the street and turning around to comb through the shelves again, my eye caught a piece of gold glitter. I blinked, pushed through some obnoxiously loud teenage girls and feasted my eyes upon a mask like no other in the corner, sitting forlornly and grandly.
Weaved in gold, glittery wire that managed to feel soft and stable all at once, it wrapped and curved gracefully around my eyes, highlighting my curious, brown pupils. I glowed and became giddy all at once. It was the perfect mask. No exaggeration.
And that’s what’s great about shopping in small markets – the unforeseen trinkets you find.
Oh, and another tip for travelers: don’t eat at restaurants dotting the line where Venice met the Adriatic Sea. I had the most expensive Italian meal in Venice near the waters amongst the raucous tourists, and it ended up being the worse meal I had in Italy. Later on, I passed by more hole-in-the-wall restaurants hidden in the crevices of the alleyways. Needless to say, the food placed on the small tables looked absolutely scrumptious.
Ah well, at least the view of the police chasing the men selling counterfeit Louis Vutton purses and the sea waters sparkling under the magnificent sunset made the meal a tad bit worth it.
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